Translational research

An important component of VIB’s mission is the translation of research results into products for patients and consumers. Today this process is often referred to as translational research. To be sure, the development of new drugs is a long and time-consuming process. Before it can be introduced on the market, every candidate drug has to undergo a thorough clinical evaluation consisting of three phases.
 
The clinical development of a new drug costs on average M€ 800 and takes from 6-12 years. Since these costs exceed VIB’s financial capacities, we look for business partners willing to take over our results at an early stage and conduct clinical studies with them. These partners can be either existing companies or new startups.
 
 

On their way to patients

There are currently 11 novel candidate drugs derived from VIB research undergoing clinical testing. These new therapeutic agents offer hope to people suffering from diseases such as cancer, arthritis or infectious and cardiovascular illnesses.
 
Nanobodies®
Ablynx, one of VIB’s startups, has already five products in clinical trials – two in Phase I and three in Phase II trials. The candidate drugs are based on a special type of antibodies, called Nanobodies®, and are being tested for the treatment of arthritis, osteoporosis, people having undergone a coronary intervention and sufferers of a rare disease involving the development of great quantities of tiny clots in the small blood vessels.
 
Oral mucositis
Actogenix, another VIB startup, is testing lactic acid bacteria for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. To date two products have been tested on patients: one for the treatment of enteritis and the other for the treatment of cancer patients with oral mucositis. Oral mucositis is a common side effect of anticancer therapy. A painful inflammation of the oral cavity, it makes eating and drinking very difficult and often results in the antitumor treatment having to be halted.
 
Cancer treatment with anti-PIGF
In collaboration with Thrombogenics, VIB scientists demonstrated in animal models that an antibody against the placental growth factor (PlGF) is able to inhibit the growth of over ten types of tumors. Having taken a license on the relevant VIB patents, Thrombogenics then demonstrated the safety of the antibody called TB-403 in a Phase I study. The results convinced pharmaceutical giant Roche to establish a strategic alliance with Thrombogenics and its partner BioInvent. Roche is now testing the antibody in several clinical trials for the treatment of various types of tumors.
 
Universal flu vaccine
In Belgium alone the flu kills between 1,500 and 4,500 people every year. Because the flu virus changes its structure all the time, we need a new vaccine every year to protect us from infection. The panic around the H1N1 flu in 2009 provided further proof for the great added value of a universal vaccine. VIB researchers laid the foundation for a new type of universal vaccine designed to protect against a great variety of flu viruses a few years ago. VIB then partnered with Acambis, a vaccine maker, who demonstrated the safety of the 'VIB vaccine' in a Phase I study with 79 volunteers. In 2009, Acambis was taken over by pharma giant Sanofi-Aventis, which is continuing the development of the vaccine.
 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
VIB not only focuses on major illnesses but also on less frequently occurring conditions, such as ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This as yet incurable disease has gained 'notoriety' due to several famous patients, including Stephen Hawking, Mao Tse Tung and Christopher Reeves. VIB researchers were able to demonstrate in animal models that the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has a mitigating effect on the progression of the disease. Swedish biotech company Neuronova is currently conducting a clinical Phase I/II trial with ALS patients. The results are expected soon.
 

Diagnostics on the market

In 2010, Multiplicom, the youngest VIB startup, brought diagnostics on the market for certain tumors and cystic fibrosis. There are now three diagnostic tests based on VIB research in circulation. In addition, there are some five products in the pipeline.

 

The green pipeline

Just like new drugs, new crops have to undergo multi-year field tests before they can be introduced on the market. In partnership with companies such as Bayer and CropDesign (BASF), new crops with improved yield and increased stress resistance are currently being tested. In addition, a number of candidate plant growth regulators are being tested on crops.





Diagnostic kit (BRCA) Multiplicom
© VIB, 2011